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Anxiety & Panic Disorders Health Center

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Your Child and Anxiety: School Stress Starts Early

Student Stress Starts Early. The Problem: Premature Pressure by Parents, Peers

Stress and Distress continued...

Hall says it's just not fair for parents to demand higher standard for their kids than they themselves face.

"Parents are too often very preoccupied with seeing their children succeed and intolerant of anything other than excellence," he says. "We as schools and we as parents need to remind ourselves that sustained excellence is not natural. It is not how we, ourselves, operate."

If a child is incapacitated by stress, it may be necessary for the family to seek professional help from a child psychologist or child psychiatrist. But with stress as with so much else, prevention is the key.

Preventing School Stress: The Bottom Line

Here's everything you need to know about keeping healthy stress from becoming distress:

    • Spend time with your children.
    • Give your kids a stable home environment. Negotiate home rules -- including consequences for rule breaking -- and stick to these rules.
    • Monitor their eating habits.
    • Don't just talk to your kids. Communicate with them. When children misbehave -- and they will -- try to understand their behavior instead of merely punishing it.

"Listen to your young person," Hall says. "Acknowledge and accept his or her needs. Know that school is a long-term process. One immediate success or failure is not going to determine a child's life. Growth will happen. We parents can and must learn to accept that growth -- and the fact that it is going to be unpredictable. What we can do is show constant love and support and presence. That is the most important message: that we are there, and that we love them and support them."

Part of this support is setting up a daily routine.

"Routines are good. They help alleviate stress," DeBord says. "Establishing a regular bedtime, get-up time, and bath time is important at any age. It also helps kids learn to develop routines themselves. Family meetings are important. At the beginning of school, set a weekly time to regroup and to talk about what's going on and how it will work: who gets the shower first, what time to set the alarm clocks for. Give everybody a chance to talk."

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